David Garza and Scrappy Jud Newcomb perform at a Cactus Cafe Rally on UT’s West Mall on February 26, 2010 (Photo by John Anderson)
End a Decadelong race, KUT / KUTX will no longer manage the Cafe Cactus. As reported by the the Chronicle this month, the 10-year management agreement between the University unions division to Utah and the radio station expired last fall. The previous agreement, a memorandum of understanding, was temporarily extended as discussions continued until 2021.
Last week, sources familiar with the matter confirmed that KUT / KUTX had ended its side of the negotiations. The station will thus terminate the employment of long-standing Cactus Manager. Matt Muñoz and deputy director Amy Chambless, both currently made redundant with reduced wages. In all likelihood, the university unions would take over the management of the historic bar and the concert hall, opened in 1979. Comment on the Chronicle Earlier this month, a spokesperson for UT said the school plans to maintain the space for musical use “in keeping with the rich history of the place.”
KUT / KUTX and Cactus executives declined to comment, addressing questions to college media relations. After the the Chronicle announced the news last Friday, spokesperson JB Bird provided the last statement:
The university is grateful that KUT has managed the Cactus Cafe for 10 years, helping to support Austin’s music scene. Financial considerations have led the station to decline to renew the deal, but UT-Austin remains determined to continue. music programming at Cactus for years to come while creating a sustainable path for its operations. “
Bird added that new management details “are still being worked out.”
Those involved called the negotiations “disheartening” and said the school “was playing hardball”. In a proposal presented to the college union board in April, KUT / KUTX cited annual grants of $ 120,000 to support the Cactus. In order to increase revenue, the station asked for profits on bar sales, which it did not receive under the 10-year deal, as well as increased use of larger university spaces like the Union Ballroom and Hogg Auditorium.
According to documents obtained through an Open Case Request, the venue cost the resort $ 1.21 million over the decade of management. April 4, KUT / KUTX General Manager Debbie hiott sent by email Moody Communication College Dean Jay bernhardt outlining the station’s requirements for entering into a new memorandum of understanding:
“As we come out of the pandemic-related revenue losses of over $ 2 million in subscription and events for our radio stations, and we face a sense of urgency to respond to local news needs in a As a growing community, we can no longer support a one-year grant from the Cactus Café at the expense of our members and listeners.
“In order to reach a breakeven point (we are not trying to make money with the Cactus), we need to achieve financial sustainability with an extension of our MoU. Otherwise, we will have to give up booking and management of the Cactus Cafe to our union partners. “
Bane’s World at Spider House Ballroom in 2018 (Photo by David Brendan Hall)
Spider House Ballroom reopens under new owner
Spider House Ballroom, currently called the ballroom with a pending rebranding, reopened under new owner. According to a recently hired booker Ashley bradley, the company now belongs to Chris Baker, owner of Arlo’s herbal restaurants. The campus area hosts a long-term Arlo food truck.
Bradley came on board with the elder Sacred mountain/Red 7/Sidewinder partner Jared cannon, which helps restore space. Former Dozen streets booker known as For Spite Creative, she debuted last Tuesday with a video release show for Whiskey Shivers member Jeff Hortillosa. She plans to host the former weekly Dozen Street staple Butter and jam in the ballroom, while pursuing comedy residencies like Peep Show, Gold shit, Blackout, and more.
“I’m slowly preparing the June schedule, but we’re really going to start in July,” Bradley says.
She hopes to work with the city to increase the indoor capacity by 150. In 2019, former owner Conrad Bejarano said to the Chronicle the venue would no longer host live music and would become an arcade bar, citing issues with the city’s code. This followed a the Chronicle cover story detailing the alleged sexual misconduct of the former co-owner John Dorgan (see “Tangled Web”, News, December 21, 2018).
The place has since returned to musical and humorous programming, but not to the extent of its former status since its launch in the 90s.
“We want to work with bigger bookers to put on national shows here,” she said. “We are going to make changes to the stage, the sound system and the lighting. The owner mentioned that he wanted the interior to look like a Red River room and the exterior to be like [Cosmic Coffee]. “
Bradley says the 2906 Fruth ballroom will operate separately from the neighboring cafe, which is currently closed for renovations with a new fence separating the patio behind the buildings. According to Travis County records, 2908 Fruth’s coffee was purchased on February 12 by NLX Fruth LLC, an entity registered with Jimmy nassour. Austin’s main landowner also owns the former Sidewinder space, now a bar Birdie numbers.
Erika Wennerstrom at Haute Spot on May 16th (Photo by David Brendan Hall)
New $ 10 million for music, venue targeting and the live music fund
Last Thursday, municipal Council allocated $ 10 million from a new federal economic relief package for Austin music. The portion of the American Rescue Plan will be distributed over two years, up to $ 5 million per year, through grants aimed at “Austin Music Professionals, Organizations and Businesses.” The funds joined with $ 15 million for artists and arts organizations on a unanimously approved item presented by a Council member Vanessa Fuentes.
On the music side, the $ 10 million could help replenish existing programs like the funded hotel occupancy tax Live Music Fund, decreased due to the decline in COVID-19 tourism. Community feedback focused on the early release of the LMF.
“Most working musicians still need help before concerts return to 100% capacity,” said Pat Buchta, executive director of Austin Texas Musicians. “With our state just withdrawing from extended unemployment benefits, meeting this need in a timely manner is critical to the survival of our industry.”
The money could also re-up the Creators relief grant, initially opened last August. Another potential pot is the Live Music Venues Preservation Fund, which provided continued support to 28 clubs, but reportedly required an additional $ 2.8 million to fund the 52 applicants (revisit “Live Music Preservation Fund Outlays Another $ 3.5 million,” April 23). The latest Council resolution targets sites without permanent Preservation Fund grants, as well as those that are not eligible for federal programs such as the Subsidy to operators of closed sites (a.k.a Save our steps).
“Many of our sites were literally saved by [the] Preservation Fund at the end of last year, “said Music Venue Alliance Austin founder Rebecca reynolds. “However, we still have sites that through no fault of their own fell through the cracks and received no disaster assistance.”
Vote follows budget proposals submitted to Council last month by an advocacy group Music makes Austin and the Austin Music Commission (Revisit “The Music Relief Magic Number”, April 30). Both have requested more than $ 20 million from the ARP and the General Fund to support Austin’s music economy. Following their requests, Council also asked the City Manager to recommend other funding options for the recovery of the arts and music.